ADVICE FOR A GENTLEMAN AT WAR

Instructions for Young Gentlemen.

Oxford, John Lichfield, 1633.

£2,350

FIRST ENGLISH EDITION. 12mo. pp. (viii) 122 (ii). Roman letter within double ruled line border; errata on recto of last. A very good, clean wide-margined copy in contemporary limp vellum, later vellum superimposed over spine, lacking ties. Acquisition note of Thomas Clifford 1647, 1s 3d, to rear free endpaper.

A translation of an untraced original, subtitled “The instructions of Cardinall Sermonetta to his Cousen Petro Caetano, at his first going into Flanders to the Duke of Parma, to serve Philip, King of Spaine,” the work comprises a set of instructions to a young nobleman entering military and royal service. It begins with the necessity of maintaining regular communication by writing from every stopping place to both confirm his progress, report upon the state of the war and to find out what is to be done in service to the King. The need for discretion and secrecy in his letters is advised, as well as the keeping of detailed records to eliminate confusion. As well as sending letters of his own, it is vital that he answer fully all missives, using the cypher that he receives.

Cardinal Sermonetta advises his cousin to develop a close relationship with the postmaster, rewarding him intermittently for his continued good services so he would remain loyal and work with haste. Petro was evidently sent to Flanders at the desire of his father and was impelled to do his utmost to ensure the satisfaction of the Prince with his service, combining excellence in war and a thorough knowledge of the context in which hostilities had developed. It behooves him to demonstrate honour and an encyclopaedic knowledge of the state of affairs of the nation, topographically and socially as well as militarily. The Cardinal also encourages him to construct a dictionary of the terminology and tactics of warfare for his own use, and to participate as actively as possible in military life. Great emphasis is placed upon acting and speaking appropriately around the royals. The work concludes within a warning to always respect the sanctity of religious establishments, personages and artefacts, before commending him to God.

Here, the war in question is the Eighty Years’ War, the revolt of the Seventeen Provinces in the Low Countries against the Spanish (Habsburg) Empire. Shortly after the publication of this letter in 1639, Spain sent an Armada to Flanders carrying 20,000 troops to assist in a last large scale attempt to defeat the northern “rebels”. The Armada was defeated in the Battle of the Downs, marking the end of Spain as the dominant sea power.

Thomas Clifford, in ex libris, may well be the first Baron Clifford of Chudleigh (1630-1673), who probably acquired this work at the appropriate age of seventeen. He went on to distinguish himself in naval battles, including at the end of the Dutch War.

STC 11514, recording only 7 copies, BL, two at Oxford, one at Cambridge; Folger, Huntington and Yale in the US. Not in Lowndes.

L728

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